Up in smoke
Hartley off to a rough start in Brazil
Birthday boy Brendon Hartley has recorded the 17th fastest time on the opening day of practice for Formula One’s Brazilian Grand Prix in Sao Paulo.
Kiwi driver Hartley, celebrating his 28th birthday, overcame a disappointing first practice session to drive a heavy second session at the Interlagos track.
His time of one minute 11.821 seconds was quicker than three others in the 20-man field.
Toro Rosso teammate Pierre Gasly was 16th fastest, 0.399sec ahead of the rookie from Palmerston North.
It was something of a relief for Hartley, whose 28th birthday was shaping up badly when forced to pull out of the first session after just two laps because of engine problems.
His 54 laps during the second session was the most by any driver.
Mercedes dominated the session, with Lewis Hamilton clocking 1min 09.515sec to head off teammate Valtteri Bottas by 0.048sec at the top of the timesheet.
Hamilton, who has already wrapped a fourth championship title, couldn’t match his first session time of 1:09.202, which was a lap record.
Brazil hosts the penultimate round of the championship tomorrow [NZT].
Hartley made his debut at the US Grand Prix in Texas last month, where he qualified 18th fastest and finished 13th in the race.
At the subsequent Mexico Grand Prix, Hartley was 13th in qualifying but failed to finish the race because of engine failure.
Hamilton, with four world championship stars now on his race helmet, dominated the opening and second practice and shows no sign of letting up. “It is a better time than ever to apply even more pressure, just because you can,” he said.
Bottas, who is bidding to end the season as runner-up to the Briton, was second fastest in 1:09.563 while Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo was third racing in the Red Bull car and 0.228sec ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
The previous track record of 1:09.822 was set by Brazilian Rubens Barrichello in 2004 qualifying for Ferrari. Red Bull’s Dutch 20-year-old Max Verstappen was fifth ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen in Sao Paulo.
Hamilton may have already won the championship at the last race in Mexico but says he is determined to win the final two races.
Mercedes have clinched the constructors’ championship for a fourth successive year and have said they will use practices to experiment with processes and parts for 2018.
With none of the top four teams able to improve their placings or in any danger of dropping down the order, others were also turning their thoughts to next year.
“Obviously, both cars have got bits that they [the engineers] are having a look at for future events,” said Red Bull boss Christian Horner, whose team have won two of the last four races with Verstappen. “These sessions are so valuable now.
“They are the last opportunities this year to try a few things out for future car development.”
Ricciardo will have a drop of at least 10 grid places due to power unit changes while Hartley and Gasly will also pick up engine penalties due to their woes during the practice sessions in Brazil.
Brendon Hartley endured engine problems in the opening practice sessions at Brazil’s Interlagos circuit.